Lopatcong Township Fire Engine 7461 has its problems. It’s loud. It leaks oil. The battery exploded one time. And as a result of its brake issues, it almost crashed into a house near the Delaware Park Fire Co.
A quick-thinking Brandon Stires saw it rolling away from the firehouse on Park Avenue and leapt into action, Mayor Doug Steinhardt said at a council meeting. Stires is the company’s assistant fire chief.
Fire Chief Lou LaFord Jr. said the 1997 engine — the truck that gets water from a hydrant to the fire — was parked with the hand brake on. That didn’t stop it from rolling toward a house.
The 17-year-old truck has a 20-year life span, he said. It’s hard to find replacement parts because the manufacturer went out of business.
LaFord recommended instead of fixing the brakes, officials invest in a demo engine. A demo engine is one that has been shown at different departments but never used to fight a fire. It has a $414,000 price tag, while a new engine would cost $587,000, he said.
The township can get the demo truck within a month, but a new one would take six months to build. Lopatcong has mutual aid agreements with neighboring fire companies that will respond if a building is ablaze in the meantime, LaFord said.
The out-of-service engine carries the only extrication equipment the township has, LaFord said. That’s what firefighters use to rescue someone who’s trapped after a car accident. While the engine isn’t in use, the Phillipsburg Emergency Squad is responding to the company’s calls with its rescue truck.
Council voted 4-1, with Councilwoman Donna Schneider dissenting, to acquire the demo engine. Schneider said she needed more information before she could agree to the expense.